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Horse racing, booze and city council seats: Nov. 2 election results in West Texas

Voters in the Big Bend approved two local ballot initiatives, while Midland residents voted in two new city council members.

By Travis Bubenik

Voters across West Texas took to the polls on Tuesday, weighing in on eight proposed amendments to the state constitution and a few local measures across the region.

At the statewide level, unofficial results showed voters approving all eight constitutional amendments, as the Texas Tribune reported. One of the measures would bar state or local governments from prohibiting or limiting religious services, a measure largely seen as a response to restrictions placed on houses of worship during the height of the pandemic.

In Midland, voters chose Robin Poole and Dan Corrales for the city council’s two at-large seats, ousting incumbents Spencer Robnett and Michael Trost.

Poole won with about 35% of the vote, while Corrales came in second with approximately 24% of the vote.

In the race for North Midland’s district one city council seat, Scott Dufford fendended off a challenge by Ross Schumann and won the election with 54% of the vote.

In Presidio County, voters approved two local measures legalizing gambling on horse races within the county. The ballot initiative was part of a plan for a new horse track in the city of Presidio, a project being pushed by a group of investors with ties to the community.

With 191 votes in favor, voters in the county approved to allow wagering on “simulcast races,” which means betting virtually or from another location. And with 194 votes, residents voted to approve in-person betting on races as well.

Still, there was a notable Presidio-Marfa split in the vote, with the Big Bend Sentinel reporting that precincts in Presidio supported the measures while those in Marfa voted against them.

The ballot measures passing means the race track organizers can move forward with a license application with the Texas Racing Commission, though it’s still far from certain whether the track will be built. Jose Valdez, one of the people behind the project, previously told Marfa Public Radio that organizers are still working on finalizing their plan, including where the race track would be located.

In Jeff Davis County, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to legalize alcohol sales - including mixed drinks - across the entire county, with 340 people voting in favor of the measure and 87 voting against.

Previously, different precincts in the Fort Davis area had different rules on alcohol sales. The Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce supported the measure, which came after multiple similar initiatives but failed attempts to get the issue on the ballot in recent years.

Melissa Henderson, the chamber’s executive director, said Wednesday the standardization of rules on alcohol sales throughout the county would be good for small businesses, particularly those in the growing Texas wine industry.

“I really see the change as far as tourism having to do with viticulture and having to do with our wineries and vineyards,” she said. “Now just something as simple as a tasting room can happen.”

Henderson said the measure passing would also allow the chamber itself to sell beer and wine at its next “Coolest Fourth of July” event, which would help fund the annual gathering.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.